American Liberal & Conservative thought, that curiously symbiotic relationship

In my travels throughout the connected world via the Internet and the medium of social media, one of the things that often gives me pause is the invective spewed by people on comment boards. I’ve mentioned previously that I feel that anonymity of the Internet provides people with a layer of courage that would otherwise be absent in a conventional setting.

I’ve also wondered about how much the overall comprehension and respect for history has in informing, influencing and powering the overall political philosophies that many people hold. Nowadays it is very common to see battle lines drawn in the sphere of American politics along the lines of Democratic and Republican camps with Independents occupying a netherworld of sorts, not feeling comfortable with aligning themselves with either party.


The buzz words of conservative and liberal are often used as an epithet to describe those who proudly wear the label of party, but it is my contention that such labels do more harm than good. As I am inclined to believe that both camps have a symbiotic relationship that neither side truly appreciates.

Conservatives are often associated with bible thumping and intolerance, while liberals are often painted with a broad brush of being sympathetic to socialism and having communist leanings and the like. In lieu of the ugliness that each side is branded with it makes for a proverbial minefield that is nearly impossible to cross, but there is common ground to found on nearly any issue. But, people have to sincerely want it; the will to understand must be there.

In short… It is incumbent on people to meet others where they are at, not where we would like them to be.

This has been my thought process for quite some time, especially when I consider the laborious process of governing myself, let alone going through the foolhardy exercise of pointing my finger at someone or group that doesn’t fit my concept of what is right.

Intellectually, I like the idea of understanding why people operate in the fashion that they do. Everybody has a story and depending on the circumstances most people like to hear a good narrative, it is a core component of our humanity and it is what separates us from everything that we have dominion over on the planet Earth.

I’m going to pull the definition of the aforementioned epithets (conservative, liberal) from the dictionary for reference and I’ve going to add another one: progressive.

  1. 1.       Conservative: disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.
  1. 2.       Liberal: favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression.
  1. 3.       Progressive: going forward or onward; passing successively from one member of a series to the next; proceeding step by step.

As human beings the key component to our survival as a species has been an ability to adapt to changing environments, circumstances and the like. Without this progressive, adaptive component of our nature, our time on this planet would have ended thousands of years earlier. In looking at the referenced definitions and the accompanying hyperlinks, logically where does humanity fall in the grand scheme of things?

Consider this… With the founding of the United States had the conservative thought process won out, with the implicit acknowledgment of slavery enshrined in the Constitution in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3, not to mention the passage of 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution where would that leave us as a society? Not to mention the passage of the 19th amendment, this granted women the right to vote in 1920. The suffrage movement was a “liberal” movement that was vehemently opposed by the conservatives of the time, who contended that “suffrage would also sever the chivalric ties between men and women, as well go against the word of God, as written in the Bible”. Unfortunately, it took the enactment of a number of Civil Rights Acts in the 19th and 20th centuries before there was some semblance of equality under the letter of the law.

Looking at it from the surface it would seem that “liberals” and “conservatives” have a much needed symbiotic relationship that they should appreciate rather than denigrate. One of the most powerful narratives written that touches on the efficacy of progressive thought in my opinion is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” where he answered the queries of those who preached “conservatism” versus what was thought to be a “liberal” course of action to oppose what was considered unjust laws that were on the books. I especially appreciated how King alluded to Socrates belief that it is “necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal

Why is this considered a foreign concept to us in 2014? I guess common sense is truly easier than it sounds.


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